From-Scratch Beef Tacos

Beef Taco

This is probably my proudest blog update to date. Why, you ask? Because I FRIED something successfully and without burning myself or burning down the hotel room. Woohoo! When I was planning my menu for the week I decided beef tacos sounded good (since we both love Mexican food) but I wasn’t feelin’ the beef mixture made from a packet of seasoning and the pre-fab taco shells from a box. So I started searching the internet and found a recipe and a method for from-scratch beef tacos that I KNEW I could count on because it was from Cook’s Illustrated. I hate to gloat but Alex agreed with me so I must say, these were probably the BEST ground beef tacos I have ever had! I don’t know if we will every be able to eat tacos from a packet and pre-fab shells again. There’s just no comparison. The only downside is that doing it this way is definitely not the quick weeknight meal that you think of beef tacos being. However, you could fry the shells on the weekend, package them in a sealed plastic bag, and then just reheat in the oven on the day of the tacos. That would make it WAY more weeknight-friendly!

Beef Tacos

Home-Fried Taco Shells

Source: Cook’s Illustrated 5/2002 (see link for step-by-step pictures and instructions)

The taco shells can be fried before you make the filling and rewarmed in a 200-degree oven for about 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 taco shells, serving 4

  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil, corn oil, or canola oil (I used more than this b/c my skillet is larger than 8 inches. I’d say just get about a 1/2 inch of oil in the skillet.)
  • 8 corn tortillas (6 inch)

1. Heat oil in 8-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat to 350 degrees, about 5 minutes (oil should bubble when small piece of tortilla is dropped in; tortilla piece should rise to surface in 2 seconds and be light golden brown in about 1 1/2 minutes). Meanwhile, line rimmed baking sheet with double thickness of paper towels.

2. Following illustrations below, using tongs to hold tortilla, slip half of tortilla into hot oil. With metal spatula in other hand, keep half of tortilla submerged in oil. Fry until just set, but not brown, about 30 seconds.

3. Flip tortilla; hold tortilla open about 2 inches while keeping bottom submerged in oil. Fry until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Flip again and fry other side until golden brown, about 30 seconds.

4. Transfer shell upside down to prepared baking sheet to drain. Repeat with remaining tortillas, adjusting heat as necessary to keep oil between 350 and 375 degrees.


Ground Beef Tacos

Source: Cook’s Illustrated 5/2002

Tomato sauce is sold in cans in the same aisle that carries canned whole tomatoes. Do not use jarred pasta sauce in its place. We prefer to let diners top their own tacos with whatever fillings they prefer. There’s no need to prepare all of the toppings listed below, but cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes are, in our opinion, essential.

Makes 8 tacos, serving 4

Beef Filling
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or corn oil
1 small onion , chopped small (about 2/3 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  table salt
1 pound 90% lean ground beef (or leaner)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons vinegar (preferably cider vinegar)
  Ground black pepper
Shells and Toppings
8 taco shells (warmed according to package instructions), or Home-Fried Taco Shells (see related recipe)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces), or Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
2 small tomatoes , chopped small
1/2 cup sour cream
1 avocado , diced medium
1 small onion , chopped small
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
  hot pepper sauce , such as Tabasco

1. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, spices, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground beef and cook, breaking meat up with wooden spoon and scraping pan bottom to prevent scorching, until beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar, and vinegar; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently and breaking meat up so that no chunks remain, until liquid has reduced and thickened (mixture should not be completely dry), about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

2. Using wide, shallow spoon, divide filling evenly among taco shells; place two tacos on individual plates. Serve immediately, passing toppings separately. (I served them with shredded cheddar cheese and homeade fresh guacamole and they were PERFECT!)

Beef Tostadas


3 Responses to “From-Scratch Beef Tacos”

  1. Melissa Says:

    Sounds good! I think I am going to try this one night this week.

  2. bridget Says:

    I love home-fried taco shells! There’s just no comparison to the store-bought version.

  3. From-Scratch Beef Tacos « Made By Melissa Says:

    […] packets just aren’t that good, so I decided to try this recipe after seeing it over at The Spicy Skillet. I thought the ground beef filling came out very well, Nate thought there was a bit to much […]

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